Report that alleged Monsanto collaborator at the EPA tried to "kill" is finally published
A draft US federal report has confirmed links between glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weedkiller, and some forms of cancer. The report could have a damaging impact on Bayer/Monsanto’s attempt to defend the large number of legal cases involving its weedkiller.
On April 8, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is tied to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, released its long-awaited draft toxicological report on glyphosate. It had been delayed for over three years, allegedly thanks to the efforts of Monsanto and a group of high-ranking officials within the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The ATSDR documented a range of concerns about glyphosate. But most worryingly for Bayer/Monsanto, just like the World Health Organisation's cancer agency IARC, it identified evidence for a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This is exactly the outcome that the company feared because it undercuts its narrative that IARC’s concerns about glyphosate’s carcinogenicity can be offset by the EPA’s determination that glyphosate is “not likely” to cause cancer.
According to the cautiously worded ATSDR report, “Numerous studies reported risk ratios greater than 1 for associations between glyphosate exposure and risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or multiple myeloma; however, the reported associations were statistically significant only in a few studies."
"Greater than 1" simply means that there is an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for people exposed to glyphosate herbicides. And the fact that the association were statistically significant in "only a few" studies still means there are several studies that do find an association.
The ATSDR disagrees with the EPA on glyphosate's carcinogenicity
Dr Chuck Benbrook, a former director of the National Academy of Sciences' Board on Agriculture and an expert on glyphosate use, told Agri-Pulse that although ATSDR is “extremely cautious” and “does a good job dancing around” the carcinogenicity question, ultimately it does NOT agree with EPA’s determination that glyphosate is “not likely” to cause cancer — “they [ATSDR] certainly did not support EPA’s final evaluation”.
Tina Levine, a former manager in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, where she ran the Health Effects Division, told Bloomberg, “There does seem to be an effect. It’s not a large risk [for NHL] but it’s there based on what ATSDR has found."
Unfortunately the ATSDR did not consider the industry mouse studies that showed malignant lymphoma in glyphosate-exposed animals. Now, after the EU Court of Justice verdict giving access to documents, all these studies should be available for the ATSDR.
Contrary to Germany's BfR and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the ATSDR also recognized some evidence for genotoxicity of the active ingredient glyphosate.
The ATSDR glyphosate report is open for public consultation now (deadline is July 8).
Report that Monsanto's alleged mole at the EPA tried to "kill"
The ATSDR report could have a major impact in the US as well as Europe. According to Bloomberg, this is the study that Monsanto's alleged mole at the EPA, Jess Rowland, said in April 2015 he aimed to "kill".
The report was meant to have been published by the end of 2015 – but it wasn't.
According to an article by US Right to Know's Carey Gillam, documents released through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests reveal that the delay "was no accident, no bureaucratic delay, but rather was the result of a collaborative effort between Monsanto and a group of high-ranking EPA officials".
Gillam writes, "For Monsanto, the timing of the ATSDR review was worrisome. In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had declared glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen, and Monsanto feared ATSDR might have similar concerns about the chemical."
The stalemate was broken when last week, according to Bloomberg, the House Science Committee sent a letter to ATSDR director Patrick Breysse, asking about the status of the draft report.
Now, three years later and with thousands of lawsuits against Monsanto/Bayer waiting to be heard, the report has finally seen the light of day. And it's likely to add to the company's woes.
Realistic studies would have shown greater risks
Environmental groups have questioned regulatory approvals of glyphosate, arguing that they often do not reflect real-life exposure scenarios.
Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The risks would’ve been found to be greater had they given sufficient weight to more realistic studies of people and test animals exposed to the full product, not just one chemical in Roundup."
Sass also pointed out that the ATSDR report raises the issue of endocrine, reproductive, and developmental concerns “that are not being addressed in some of the high-profile litigation that’s grabbing headlines”.
Further research needed
The ATSDR made a number of recommendations for further research:
* Studies should be designed to evaluate respiratory effects in animals exposed to glyphosate by inhalation.
* Additional studies should be designed to determine whether glyphosate or other ingredients in glyphosate formulations are involved in developmental effects on male reproductive organs.
* Human and animal studies should be designed to evaluate airborne exposure levels and possible health effects from inhalation exposure. Additional animal studies should be designed to assess the toxic effects of exposure to a variety of glyphosate formulations and individual components suspected to be toxic.
* Studies are needed to investigate human intake of glyphosate via food and water, such as total diet studies.
* Monitoring of children’s exposure to glyphosate would be useful, in combination with children’s health and susceptibility information, to assess the potential risk for harmful effects.